Can a society be moral if most of its population does not know science? Of course not. And it generalizes: if a society does not know all it could know, and which is most significant, it cannot be moral.
The enquiry of why the US Army bombed a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders, MSF/DWB hospital, and kept bombing it, even after it knew it was a hospital it was bombing, reveals a deep disconnect between morality and knowledge.
In truth: no knowledge, no morality.
The US Army filed no criminal charges: that may have been correct, it’s its entire culture of engagement which is criminal, at this point.
High morality is the motivation for high precision.
Says the New York Times:
“WASHINGTON — Dispatched to eliminate a compound swarming with Taliban fighters, the AC-130 gunship circled above the Afghan city, its crew struggling to figure out where exactly to direct the aircraft’s frightening array of weaponry. Missile fire had forced it off course, and now the gunship’s targeting systems were pointing it to an empty field, not an enemy base.
About 1,000 feet to the southwest, however, the crew spotted a collection of buildings that roughly matched the description of the Taliban compound provided by American and Afghan forces on the ground. Nine men could be spotted walking between the buildings.
The gunship’s navigator called an American Special Forces air controller on the ground seeking guidance. The response was immediate and unequivocal.
“Compound is currently under control of the TB, so those nine PAX are hostile,” the air controller said, using common military shorthand for “Taliban” and “people.”
The air controller was wrong. His mistake was one link in a chain of human errors and equipment and procedural failures that led to the devastating attack on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan last year that killed 42 [innocent, staff, patients and doctors] people, the Defense Department said Friday… military investigators described a mission that went wrong from start to finish. Even after Doctors Without Borders informed American commanders that a gunship was attacking a hospital, the airstrike was not immediately called off because, it appears, the Americans could not confirm themselves that the hospital was actually free of Taliban.
“Immediately calling for a cease-fire for a situation we have no SA” — situational awareness, that is — “could put the ground force at risk,” an American commander whose name and rank were redacted was quoted as saying in the report.”
It turns out that the entire mission was conducted as if human lives were not important. The gunship left more than an hour early (for an “unrelated emergency”), before proper briefing, although that flying destroyer equipped with a 105mm cannon, was sent to a city full of people. Then a radio failed, preventing the download of further information to the plane, etc. The crew does not seem to have ever been told a hospital was in the general area of the target.
Not bringing any criminal charges was “simply put, inexplicable,” said John Sifton, the Asia policy director of Human Rights Watch. Indeed, there are plenty of legal precedents for war crimes prosecutions based on acts that were committed with recklessness. Recklessness or negligence does not absolve someone of criminal responsibility under the United States military code. In a famous example, the cruiser Indianapolis, which had transported the atomic bomb, was sunk by a Jap submarine a few days before the end of the war. Its captain was court-martialed, and condemned (in spite of the insistence of the Jap commander, Commander Mochitsura Hashimoto, that the cruiser would have been hit, from the position of the sub, and the fan of torpedo fired, no matter what. The conviction of the US Captain was reversed, 5 days after Hashimoto’s passing at age 91)
This attack against Medecins Sans Frontieres was in the mood of “signature strikes” (and helped by great anger of some Afghan commanders against Doctors Without Borders)… an accident waiting to happen from systemic recklessness. The famous signatures strikes are the most significant signature of the Obama administration in the matter of international relations (besides juicy transnational treaties to promote plutocracies and Panama papers arrangements).
“Signature strikes” consisted in attacking gatherings of people in a country the US is not at war with, just because, like your average wedding full of Arabs or Pakistani, they looked suspicious. Amazingly, the Obama administration went on with them for years. In great part because US Main Stream Media decided that killing crowds of unknown people in unknown parts did not matter: US inflicted terror, for no good reason, was a good thing.
What was the moral theory behind those “signature strikes”? Plausible denial that the perpetrators did not know what was going on. The exact same theory the Prussians inaugurated in 1914, and the Nazis perpetrated during their reign of terror, attacking the world (as in 1914), and killing 15 millions in extermination camps, plus many million civilians out there by bombing flour mills, etc.
To use evil ways against evil perpetrators may be necessary: strategic bombing defeated the Nazis and the Japanese military (although it killed only around 700,000 in Germany). However, using evil ways when they are not necessary, even in the service of goodness, is evil.
In the wars the French and American air forces are conducting against Islamists, from Mali to Afghanistan, hitting the enemy and ONLY the enemy should be the first objective.
Clearly, the US should do more like the French, and conduct more thorough examination of what they are going to attack (France has learned the lesson the hard way: see the massacres in Oran in 1945). At the slightest doubt, there should be no attack against a massively innocent population. One does not rescue people from oppression, by killing them.
The fight against Islamism is not the fight against Nazism. In the case of Nazism, the strongest means were justified: an entire nation had become criminally insane, and was the enemy. (Killing the innocent was unavoidable collateral damage. If Germans wanted to stop the insanity, they could stop collaborating with the Nazis; many did, in the end, enough to make a big difference.)
Whereas, in the case of Islamism, many pseudo-thinkers in the West made various theories to tell us that fearing Wahhabism was racist. They, not innocent civilians, throughout Africa and the Middle East, should rather be bombed.